There are open fermentation beers, then there are wild beers, that's what Black Project Spontaneous Ales
is into, letting its beers be inoculated purely by the wild yeasts and microbes that travel in the air, creating beers that are wholly unique in flavor. As of Feb. 15 from Former Future Brewing Company
, the Black Project's wild beers are available in bottles for the first time.
"We expose our wort while still boiling, to the outside air to cool overnight on our roof," says James Howat, co-founder of Former Future and Black Project. "The next morning we put this wort into a barrel or other closed-top vessel and wait for fermentation to start." It can sometimes take four to 10 days for the very small amount of microbes from the air to multiply to a point where the wort is actually being fermented at an appreciable level, he adds, "so our beers are made via open, spontaneous inoculation but closed fermentation."
While these types of beer are produced in Belgium and the U.K. and have been for centuries, there aren't many breweries in the U.S. making them. "To my knowledge, we are the only brewery in Colorado to release a beer made using a coolship and completely spontaneous fermentation," Howat says. The coolship is the open vessel designed to allow the wort to cool and be inoculated by the air at a certain rate.
"Finding out what a small population of wild-caught microbes are going to do with a wort I design is truly my favorite part of brewing and is essentially why Black Project exists," Howat says. "Beers that we intend to eventually sell year-round we can blend and do a variety of things to make sure that the beers are always pretty similar, but even then there will be difference."
The company, a side project of Former Future, has already made a buzz. It debuted Flyby, its coolship spontaneous sour ale, at the Great American Beer Festival in October 2014 and won a bronze medal in the wild ale category. On Sun. Feb. 15, the young company is selling that as well as Jumpseat, a dry-hopped wild ale, at 2 p.m. at Former Future (1290 S. Broadway).
Only 48 750-milliliter bottles of Flyby are available at $35 a bottle, and 120 bottles of Jumpseat are available at $22 a bottle. "These beers are taking an average of 6 months to be ready," Howat says. "So we can't just make more right away just because the demand is so insane," he explains.
The nascent company, which started brewing in February 2014, is already preparing to expand. Howat says there will be as many as five releases between March and September, two with about 2,500 bottles and the others will be in the triple-digit range.
Given the experimental nature of coolship brewing -- 20 percent of the barrels could fail -- and the lengthy time it takes to brew the beer, Howat says he's thinking five years ahead to keep up with future demand.
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